Bournemouth Little Theatre Bournemouth Little Theatre, Winton, Bournemouth Helen Lawrence
15 February 2023
Amanda Whittington is an English dramatist who has written over thirty plays for theatre and radio and is one of the most widely performed playwrights in the UK.
This play is the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to hang in Britain, in July 1955, sentenced by ten men and two women. The story is a snapshot of the sharp social realism of austere post-war London where sexual abuse and domestic violence were not acknowledged and could therefore offer no defence in a court of law. Women like Ruth and Vickie Martin sought an escape from poverty in the perceived glamour of the London Club Scene and the myth of great romantic love, portrayed on film screens around the country from Hollywood.
This production is cleverly directed by Rachael de Courcy Beamish and gives a sensitive and powerful portrayal of the facts. The scene changes were effortlessly achieved and the screen, projecting real historic images, enhanced the atmosphere of this play.
Mica Sharples captured the smart , sensitive and fragile character of Ruth Ellis perfectly, whilst also portraying the strength and morality by accepting her fate. The Detective Inspector, Jack Gale takes the audience through the facts of the story whilst also developing his relationship with Ruth. Simon Meredith who plays this part gives the audience an insight into how difficult he found the investigation and how much he really wanted to defend her. There was a real sense of chemistry between them on stage and this was beautifully crafted.
Jessica Allen, in the role of Vickie Martin, was another girl looking for a better life whilst Dina Berlyn’s character, Doris Judd, was the charwoman and confidante who supported Ruth throughout. Both Jessica and Dina gave strong performances. Sylvia Shaw is the no nonsense, down to earth club manager who tries very hard to keep her girls working and out of danger. This part is played effortlessly by Belinda Harward, who wrestles with the girl’s dreams of rising the social ladder and tries to keep their feet firmly on the ground. James Riley, Lily Pearce and Lindsay Jones took on the roles of non-speaking extras whilst also being a terrific support backstage. Billy Holliday’s cracked, bruised voice provides the soundtrack to Ruth’s life, in which the fantasy of a better existence is always just out of reach.
A full house applauded this consummate production where each characterization was believable executed leaving an honest and thought-provoking response. A real insight or reminder into how life was shaped for women in the 1950’s.
You can still enjoy this production as it runs until Saturday 18th February at Bournemouth Little Theatre in Jameson Road, Winton from 7.45 each evening.